THE ETHICS and Standards Committee has recently welcomed four new members following the end of term of two others.
Chair Eddie Ffoulkes-Jones and Vice-chair Stephen Cripps gave 10 years’ service to the Committee between 2008 and 2018 and departed in February 2018. In their place, sees Chair Hywel Wyn Jones and Vice-chair Caroline White. Two new independent members, Carol Edwards and John Weston, have also been appointed.
Eifion Evans, Chief Executive of Ceredigion County Council told The Ceredigion Herald: “Ceredigion County Council has benefitted from a decade of excellent advice and guidance from the members of the Ethics and Standards Committee under the Chairmanship of Eddie Foulkes Jones and we are deeply indebted to him, Vice-Chair Stephen Cripps and the committee members. However, we are now embarking on a new era with four new members of the committee. Their input to the function of the Ethics and Standards Committee will be greatly appreciated and we look forward with confidence that the Council will continue to function effectively and efficiently in an open and transparent manner.”
Commenting on his appointment as Chairman of the Committee, Hywel Wyn Jones said: “I feel honoured to have been appointed as chair of Ceredigion County Council’s Ethics and Standards Committee and look forward to carrying on the excellent lead of my predecessor, Eddie Foulkes Jones, and to working with my colleagues, comprising both Elected Members and independent appointees, to maintain the high ethical standards that have been set”.
The members of the Committee have a clear vision for the future. Hywel Wyn Jones continued: “An important part of the committee’s work is to consider applications by councillors for dispensation to take part in debates on issues in which they may have some personal and prejudicial interest. In these cases, we are always aware of the need to enable members to represent and speak for their electors, except when their personal situation makes that inappropriate.”
Ceredigion County Council Chairman, Councillor Lynford Thomas, added: “Our thanks go to Eddie and Stephen who have given of their time to contribute to the Committee and we welcome the new members.”
Hywel Wyn Jones concluded: “The issue of ethical standards in public life has had a great deal of media attention recently, and Standards Committees of local authorities exist to do all that is possible to promote and safeguard the standards that the public rightly expect from their elected representatives. Ceredigion has a good record of compliance, and I’m confident that this can continue, despite the heavy pressures that members are under, particularly due to the severe financial cuts facing our councils.”
Hywel Wyn Jones Chaired his first Committee on 06 April 2018. The Committee is an open meeting, made up of five independent members, two county councillors and two community councillors. Meeting quarterly, papers for the Ethics and Standards Committee can be seen on the Council’s website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk
Council tax reduction supports people on low incomes
A COUNCIL Tax Reduction Scheme is in place to help people who are on a low income. The council administers the scheme on behalf of the Welsh Government for people who are liable to pay Council Tax and who live in Ceredigion. With the recent decision to raise Council Tax by 7%, residents on low incomes are being urged to find out if they are entitled to some help towards paying their Council Tax.
People can be eligible for the reduction if they are on a low income, working or unemployed, cannot work because of illness, retired or are caring for someone. The amount of the reduction depends on a person’s circumstances and how much Council Tax they need to pay.
Councillor Gareth Lloyd is the Cabinet member responsible for Financial Services. He said, “We made the difficult decision to raise Council Tax by 7% to reduce the amount of cuts we have to make to council services. The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising.”
“We want to urge anyone who is on a low income to consider if they are eligible for Council Tax Reduction. Tax increases can add pressure onto people’s budgets, and although this increase is vital to keep quality services in Ceredigion, we want to make sure that anyone who is eligible for help gets it.”
For more information on eligibility and how to claim council tax reduction, email email@example.com or call 01970 633 252.
7% council tax increase to protect education funding
THE COUNCIL TAX in Ceredigion for 2019-2020 will increase by 7%. The increase was agreed by councillors to reduce the impact of cuts to the Council’s budget and, in particular, to protect education spending. The decision was made in a Council meeting on 21 February 2019.
2% of the 7% increase will be used to protect education spending. Schools budgets have been under severe stress after years of needing to make savings. Costs have increased yet again following the agreement of new teachers’ salary increases together with increased pension contributions. This extra 2% uplift will enable school budgets to be kept flat.
The council tax rate increase is set by three key components, the County Council’s tax, the precept of Town and Community Councils and the Police precept. Increases set by the Police and Town and Community Councils result in a combined increase of 7.56%.
Councillor Ellen ap Leader of the Council, said, “We had no option but to ask Council to increase Council Tax by 7% in order to reduce the impact of the cuts we have had to make across council budgets. A successful Ceredigion in the future needs well-funded and well run schools. We want to invest in the future of our children and our county.”
“The reality is that the council is getting less money from the Welsh Government at a time when costs and demand for services are rising. The uplift of teachers’ salaries and pensions has not been fully funded by Welsh Government to date. If council tax had not increased, we would have to make deeper cuts.”
In 2018-2019, the average Council Tax Band D property was £1,226.48. The increase means that the same property will pay £1,312.33 in 2019-2020. The council’s budget has been cut by £39m or 25% in the last seven years. The Council will still need to save another £6m in the coming financial year.
Information management policies updated to improve security
THREE key information management policies have been updated by Ceredigion County Council. The policies were updated because of new laws and the need make sure that they are effective in a changing technological environment.
The updated policies were approved by the council’s Cabinet in a meeting on 19 February 2019.
The three policies that have been reviewed are:
· Data Protection/GDPR Policy
· Information Security Policy
· Information and Records Management Policy
The Deputy Leader of Ceredigion County Council and Cabinet member responsible for Governance, Councillor Ray Quant MBE said, “The council needs to keep information and data to carry out the many service we provide. Because of this we have to make sure we’re up to date on data and information protections laws. This decision means that we have approved the hard work done to update the policies and make sure that they are fit for use.”
The policies are essential to manage digital and paper records of the council.
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